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As Brave As You

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When two brothers decide to prove how brave they are, everything backfires—literally.

Genie’s summer is full of surprises. The first is that he and his big brother, Ernie, are leaving Brooklyn for the very first time to spend the summer with their grandparents all the way in Virginia—in the COUNTRY! The second surprise comes when Genie figures out that their grandfather is blind. Thunderstruck and—being a curious kid—Genie peppers Grandpop with questions about how he covers it so well (besides wearing way cool Ray-Bans).

How does he match his clothes? Know where to walk? Cook with a gas stove? Pour a glass of sweet tea without spilling it? Genie thinks Grandpop must be the bravest guy he’s ever known, but he starts to notice that his grandfather never leaves the house—as in NEVER. And when he finds the secret room that Grandpop is always disappearing into—a room so full of songbirds and plants that it’s almost as if it’s been pulled inside-out—he begins to wonder if his grandfather is really so brave after all.

Then Ernie lets him down in the bravery department. It’s his fourteenth birthday, and, Grandpop says to become a man, you have to learn how to shoot a gun. Genie thinks that is AWESOME until he realizes Ernie has no interest in learning how to shoot. None. Nada. Dumbfounded by Ernie’s reluctance, Genie is left to wonder—is bravery and becoming a man only about proving something, or is it just as important to own up to what you won’t do?

410 pages, Hardcover

First published May 3, 2016

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About the author

Jason Reynolds

79 books8,732 followers
Jason Reynolds is an American author of novels and poetry for young adult and middle-grade audience. After earning a BA in English from The University of Maryland, College Park, Jason Reynolds moved to Brooklyn, New York, where you can often find him walking the four blocks from the train to his apartment talking to himself. Well, not really talking to himself, but just repeating character names and plot lines he thought of on the train, over and over again, because he’s afraid he’ll forget it all before he gets home.

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5 stars
2,398 (32%)
4 stars
3,429 (45%)
3 stars
1,379 (18%)
2 stars
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1 star
56 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,242 reviews
Profile Image for Nic Stone.
Author 40 books4,099 followers
May 4, 2016
Jason Reynolds has done it again.

Departing from the often gritty, urban-set YA contemporary he's known for, AS BRAVE AS YOU takes us south to Virginia where Brooklynites 11-year-old Genie and his big brother Ernie are set to spend a month at their grandparent's house in "the country". Despite it being as different from home as night is from day, the boys soon acclimate to their new surroundings, and in the process, learn things about their family members that alter their perceptions of themselves.

This book doesn't shy away from heavier topics--mental illness, long-term grief, and broken relationships to name a few--but it's never **too much** because Genie approaches all of these issues in the same way: by writing down thought-provoking questions in his notebook. Not only are the questions cleverly worded and the character's 11-year-old voice pitch perfect, they also provoked a sense of wonder in me as a (grownup) reader.

Really, I think that's what this story is all about: learning to look around you and ask questions about the things you don't understand. There won't always be answers, and sometimes when there ARE, they're not the answers you were hoping for, but bottom line, things that are broken can be fixed... just not always in the ways we expect.

It's brilliant.
Profile Image for disco.
562 reviews221 followers
September 10, 2018
I am a HUGE fan of Jason Reynolds. I think that he is an incredible author with so much talent. As Brave As You just wasn't my absolute favorite. It is a heartwarming story that is also very approachable. There are laugh aloud moments and deafening serious ones.

One of my biggest issues with this book was simply how it is catalogued. For some reason in my library system (and others) it is considered a YA book. This book is so obviously for a middle grade audience, and is regarded as such from Booklist, Publisher's Weekly, and School Library Journal. I kept waiting for something to happen that would be "young adult worthy".. but it didn't. This may have tainted the book for me a bit. I think I will have to challenge the decision to make it Juvenile.
Profile Image for Teresa.
661 reviews
July 23, 2016
His books just keep getting better! I am a Jason Reynolds' fan and particularly loved this book. There are so many aspects that make it truly unique. Here's a short review that hopefully will intrigue you and not give away too much of the plot.

What I loved:
That it was a middle grade book about two brothers. We need more books about boys.
That it has terrific voice! The dialog and thoughts of the younger brother are contemporary and feel very real.
Genie's journal of questions - my absolute favorite part of the book. Clever, insightful and a wonderful way to get into the mind of a young preteen. I will definitely read this book again - especially for his journal questions.
A story that highlights time with grandparents.
A plot line that will keep young people (and, this grown person!) reading.
The contrast between city and country.
The subplot involving mistakes and forgiveness.
The perfect ending.
I won't be surprised if this book is recognized with an award later this year. I have grown to expect great things from this writer and my expectations have reached new heights. Kudos, Jason! My favorite thus far!
Highly recommend. Big 5 stars.
Profile Image for Gretchen Rubin.
Author 42 books88.8k followers
October 5, 2020
More Jason Reynolds! I'm working my way through his entire list. I do love a book about city kids who go live with relatives in the country (see also Up Country).
Profile Image for Hannah Greendale.
703 reviews3,276 followers
May 3, 2017
Click here to watch a video review of this book on my book channel, From Beginning to Bookend.

#489: Why is the world more interesting through the eyes of Genie Harris, questionnaire extraordinaire?

#490: How does Jason Reynolds manage to squeeze so many important messages into one little book? Bravery, forgiveness, honesty and much, much more.

#491: Why is poopity such a funny word? Poopity.
Profile Image for Chasity.
243 reviews13 followers
June 30, 2021
The combo of Jason Reynolds writing and Guy Lockard’s narration on audio was darn near perfect. This is a middle grade book, but I listened to it with my girls who are elementary age. They they thoroughly enjoyed it and asked if we could listen again as soon as it ended. Great story about a family with lots of layers to them. Will always recommend both this author and narrator!
Profile Image for Kelly Moore.
411 reviews7 followers
May 11, 2016
I love Jason Reynolds' writing, and the characters in this book were as real and interesting as all of his others. The only problem I had with this book was that the story seemed a bit long and slow moving for the age of the reader it seems aimed at. I think it could've been two really great books about this family, but for kids who want to sink into a good, long family drama with a strong brother relationship, this is a fine book.
Profile Image for Carrie Gelson.
1,242 reviews72 followers
August 10, 2016
Jason Reynolds writes incredible characters. Unforgettable believable characters. In this middle grade title, he delivers characters and relationships in a rich, quietly humorous story full of questions, wisdom and love.
Profile Image for Tasha.
4,117 reviews104 followers
June 17, 2016
Genie and Ernie are heading to Virginia to stay with their paternal grandparents for the very first time. Though they have met their grandmother before, this is the first time that Genie has met him. The difference between their lives in Brooklyn and their grandparents’ home in rural Virginia are huge. But that’s not the only thing that surprises Genie. He is shocked to find out that his grandfather is blind. Genie is a kid who is full of questions to ask all of the time and so he immediately asks his grandfather questions about his blindness. Genie knows that his older brother Ernie is braver than he is, always taking up fights for Genie and protecting him. He also knows that his grandfather is immensely brave too. When something goes wrong though, Genie will have to rethink what it means to be brave.

Reynolds is so amazingly gifted as a writer. He astounded me with this departure from his more urban writing. He captures the rural world with a beautiful clarity, using the natural world around as symbols for what is happening to the humans who live there. It is done both subtly and overtly, creating a book that is multi-layered and gorgeous to read. Throughout Reynolds speaks to real issues such as guns and disabilities. They are dealt in their complexity with no clear point of view stated, giving young readers a chance to think things through on their own.

Reynolds has created a fabulous protagonist in Genie, a boy filled with so many questions to ask that he has to write them down to keep track of them. He is smart, verbose and caring. Yet at the same time, he agonizes over mistakes, trying to fix them on his own and thus creating a lot of the tension of the book. The depiction of the grandparents is also beautifully done, allowing them to be far more than elderly figures. They are often raw, sometimes wise, and also dealing with life.

A brilliant read for the middle grades, this book is filled with magnificent writing and great diverse characters. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Profile Image for Sandy.
2,526 reviews58 followers
November 14, 2017
They were sent to their grandparents as their parents were having problems and they had planned a trip without Ernie and Genie. As they settled in for the month, these two brothers were finding that they enjoyed county living and that Virginia wasn’t so bad. Genie was worried that without internet service he would not be able to find answers for all the questions that seemed to pop up in his mind, questions that needed answers that he would find on Google. Ernie was more social and he liked girls. What would the two of them do all month in North Hill, Virginia?

Enter Tess, from down the hill, who Ernie falls in love with. She is different than the girls Ernie usually likes, she’s a country girl and Ernie s a city boy. Tess’ house has internet service which Genie is able to take advantage of. He can look up all the answers to his questions and boy, does this child have the questions. Grandma sets the boys up with chores, first cleaning up the dog poop in the yard. They start flinging the poop into the forest and soon it becomes a game. Grandma gives them other daily chores and they take hold of these responsibilities. Ernie spends most of his time with Tess as he is in looovvveee. Genie spends time with his grandpop, his inquiring mind takes in his surrounding and he wants to know everything. I love how Genie questions his grandpop about his blindness. His grandpop’s honesty and the rapid-fire question and answer session between the two of them was priceless. Grandpop sure was adamant about grandma not taking care of him, he wanted to make sure that everyone knew that he is able to care for himself. The inside-outside room was interesting and I liked how Genie kept things to himself. Ernie’s birthday and his rite-of-passage was another highlight of this novel. I enjoyed how Ernie and Genie had different personalities and how they conversed with one another. This was a great novel to read as the pace was quick and I think both girls and boys would enjoy this novel.
Profile Image for Lata.
3,598 reviews191 followers
July 11, 2017
Eleven-year old Genie Harris is such a charming person. His constant logging of questions, in his notebook, prompted by events around him are often funny (e.g., does asking lots of questions make Genie a questionnaire?) but are also, at times, profound. Genie is a worrier, and the questions pour out of him when his parents leave him and his older brother, Ernie, at their grandparents' place in Virgina for a month in the summer. Ernie and Genie experience a variety of things over the month, including a new crush for Ernie, and an interesting relationship with his grandfather for Genie.
This was my first Jason Reynolds' story, and I'm definitely reading more by this author. There is a a lot going on in this book (e.g., the reason behind the birthday ritual at age 14, dealing with disability, etc.), but my favourite aspect was the family relationships. Jason Reynolds' characters feel real, and the interactions between the brothers was so caring and funny. Genie is a fantastic character, and it was wonderful seeing the world through his eyes.
Profile Image for Phil J.
701 reviews54 followers
December 23, 2018
I liked it and my students liked it, even though the plot's a bit odd.

Here's the mystery: Why won't Grandpa leave the house? No, they figure that out in the first 20 pages. Okay, what's behind the Nunya Bisness door? No, they figure that out in the next 20 pages. Why is Dad mad at Grandpa? Will Ernie fire the gun? Again, none of these is really the plot, because they all get resolved within about 20 pages of being introduced. So what's holding this book together?

*thematic spoiler*

Turns out it's guilt and shame. These are the things that hold the characters back from what they want to do, and every puzzle they encounter is about overcoming them. Reynolds draws the connection gracefully in a very well-written conclusion.

Recommended for MG and up. The length is a little imposing, so maybe 5/6.
Profile Image for mytaakeonit.
218 reviews39 followers
February 6, 2017
This book made me laugh out loud and it made me cry. I loved every page of this heartwarming story of family, brotherhood, growing up, and what it means to be brave. Highly recommend. Jason Reynolds is quickly becoming one of my favorites.
Profile Image for Aj Sterkel.
781 reviews31 followers
July 18, 2018
The Good: This is my first Jason Reynolds book, and I have to confess that I mostly bought it because of the cover. If you look really close, the scene on the cover is actually kind of terrifying. A kid is running away from a creepy old house. But, the bright colors make it not-creepy. I love it.

Jason Reynolds is a strong writer who definitely remembers what it’s like to be a kid. The voice in this novel is spot-on. I loved the narrator, Genie, right away. His curiosity and nerdyness are relatable because—just like me—he’s addicted to Googling every random thought that pops into his head. Genie’s older brother, Ernie, is the opposite of Genie. Ernie likes fashion, and being social, and flirting with girls. The brothers make an entertaining pair. Their banter is hilarious.

There is a lot going on in this novel, but mostly it’s about asking questions and confronting problems rather than avoiding them. Ignoring a bad situation usually makes it worse. The characters learn to talk through their problems, apologize for their mistakes, and speak up when something makes them uncomfortable. These are all good lessons for young readers to learn.

The Bad: As Brave As You is a character-driven novel. Most of the tension comes from wondering whether or not Genie will come clean about the mistakes he has made. There isn’t a lot of plot. Since the book is 400+ pages, I wondered if kids would have the attention span to get through it.

I realize that this is a kids’ book, but I wanted to know more about the adult characters. The adults have a lot of issues with each other. Genie’s parents have marriage issues. His parents don’t get along with his grandparents. There are a lot of family secrets. I understand that it’s realistic for kids to be kept away from adult problems, but that doesn’t work in fiction. Genie tells the reader about the problems, and then they’re magically solved when Genie isn’t around.

The Bottom Line: I liked it. Genie is an easy narrator to love, and I enjoyed reading about his adventures in the country. I will look for more Jason Reynolds books.

Want to see more reviews? Check out Read All The Things!
Profile Image for Patricia.
2,267 reviews43 followers
July 8, 2016
Read for Librarian Book Group
Oh, Jason Reynolds, when will you adopt a standard plot arc? Your characters are interesting, your settings are interesting, your episodes are interesting and unfortunately, there isn't anything that compels me to keep reading.

If you are looking for a nice meander through rural Virginia with two boys from Brooklyn staying with their grandparents for a few weeks in the summer this is your book. Stuff happens. And then some other stuff happens. And then the book is over.
Profile Image for Lekeisha The Booknerd.
929 reviews106 followers
March 8, 2019
As Brave As You is a wonderfully crafted MG novel about brothers, fathers & sons, forgiveness, love, coming of age, and the inquisitiveness of young minds. It's about grief and the need to hold on to things. I was so awed by the seriousness of it all, but was also happy to note the hilarious moments throughout that made it the perfect read. I would have given it 5 stars if it weren't for my feelings getting all bent out of shape at Grandpa Harris. I know it's just a story, but I tend to get emotionally invested in these things.

The brotherly dynamic between Ernie and Genie was so well done. That bond was unbreakable and I loved how they fed off of each others emotions. Of course, Ernie is wading through the sea of hormones so Tess' timing was the perfect addition. Genie is a curious kid that had millions of questions. He reminds me of my nephew who carries a notebook around filled with questions, answers, and infinite possibilities. I absolutely adored him!

With this tale of summer adventure for two Brooklyn boys down in Virginia with their grandparents, comes more grownup things. The strained relationship between Grandpa and Big Ernie gave a little drama to the story. It was easily transitioned so that the story didn't take off in another direction. Jason Reynolds knows when to back off, but still answers the burning questions for the reader. And that is why he is one of my favorite writers.

I don't read much MG, but I'm glad that I added this story to my 'read' shelf.
Profile Image for Sarah Krajewski.
1,012 reviews
May 24, 2016
Jason Reynolds knows how to create realistically beautiful characters. Once again, I loved them all! Genie and Ernie are two Brooklyn brothers that get stuck with their country grandparents for a month while their parents iron out some issues. Though Ernie is fourteen and Genie is eleven, they get along pretty well. As they get to know their grandparents, they start to learn about the importance of telling the truth. Their blind grandfather still has old skeletons in his closet he needs to rid himself of, and after a few mishaps, Genie finds that he does too. Some of my students may find bits of this Reynolds tale slow, but I didn't. I think everyone could learn a little something about the importance of being brave from this book.
Profile Image for Leslie Bryan.
118 reviews
January 21, 2018
I can’t get enough of Jason Reynolds’ characters. Seriously. How is his story-telling so good?? This book was sweet and perfect for the young reader audience.
Profile Image for Almira.
545 reviews2 followers
December 16, 2019
Well, I am on a Children's/Young Adult fiction kick these days...…. I have a huge pile of books to review, this was read several weeks ago, just getting around to this one.

11 year old Genie, and his "big" brother, Ernie, are spending a month with the grandparents in rural Virginia, no big deal if you are used to rural life, but a REALLY big deal if you have always lived in the Big City, have access to the internet, all those video games, television, etc., however in the rural Virginia community that their grandparents live in - well none of those "necessities" of city life are available. Besides, they really don't know that much about their grandparents, so it is truly an educational summer vacation that they will never forget. By the way, they are expected to "scoop poop", pick peas, plus many other chores they would never be expected to do if they spent the summer in the Big City. There are not too many kids their age, just one girl, who is rural wise beyond them and would probably be able to live in the Big City more easily then they in the "country", eventually they become friends.

Plus their grandfather has some rather odd ideas, one being the way they celebrate Ernie's birthday, when their parents find out - oh dear!

As the month passes, they become accustomed to this way of living. And have learned many lessons of love and life along the way.
Profile Image for Andy.
2,408 reviews190 followers
September 30, 2022
I mainly read this because it was listed on a disability spreadsheet as a main character being blind, but the main character is not blind. His grandfather is blind. Annoyed that people designate side characters that are important to the plot but not narrators as MCs when they are not.

This was a decent book though. It was definitely enjoyable. I do feel like the blind rep wasn't always accurate since one of the first things the grandfather did was feel the MCs face to "see" him, which is not something most blind folks do. However, please seek out own voices reviews for more details about the blind rep in this book!
Profile Image for Dana.
416 reviews
November 17, 2018
Really 3.5. I wasn't blown away by the book, but I loved the uniqueness of the book- very interesting characters and odd but compelling events. There were some parts I wasn't crazy about (the poop flinging) but I think middle grade students would find them hilarious.
Profile Image for RoRo.
279 reviews65 followers
March 20, 2022
3.75 stars

This book was good. I could say that is was not the best Jason Reynolds book and I would definitley agree to that. This review is not going to be long because I am just not in the mood to write reviews but like, I have to. I enjoyed this book, however, it seemed extremly slow paced to me and yea, thats kind of the whole reason I gave this book this rating. I also felt that the main character was extremly annoying at some parts and his brother kind of just happend out of no where I guess.
Hope you all have a nice day!
Profile Image for Bri.
Author 1 book177 followers
September 21, 2018
4.5 stars!

What a wonderful coming-of-age book! I really enjoyed this, and I was surprised since I just picked it up at a library after seeing the beautiful cover. I fell in love with Reynolds's pitch perfect depiction of country summers with Black grandparents. This book really took me back to visiting my grandparents in North Carolina as a child and learning how to get up early and do chores even during summer haha

I also really adored the empathy and compassion Genie showed throughout the novel. He was such a wonderful and curious child. One of my favorite things about this book besides the magical use of Black Southern dialect is that one of the main lessons is about redefining what it means for men to show bravery. The relationships between Genie and Ernie and Genie and Grandpop were so complex and natural that you can tell these men care for and love each other so much. It was a pleasure to read.

My only critique is that the generous use of the word "crazy" made me cringe, even though I really appreciate how in depth Reynolds was able to get about different kinds of mental illness in a juvenile book. Otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed this one and I recommend it to all my teacher friends for their students. It's a joy for adults to read too :)
Profile Image for Amy.
209 reviews2 followers
August 10, 2017
3.5 stars

Read as part of the Washington Post's KidsPost Summer Book Club for 2017.

What I liked about it:
- middle-grade boy main character
- the relationships between Genie and Ernie, Genie and Grandpop, the boys and Grandma, the boys and Tess
- the theme of making mistakes and seeking forgiveness

In addition, I identified with Genie's "worrier" personality and desire to make things just right, and I liked this book better than "Ghost" by the same author, which I read earlier this year. Some reviewers have mentioned that they felt like this book lacked action, or was longer than necessary to tell the story. I didn't feel that way, though some kids probably will think it moves slowly. This would make a good classroom or book club read, as it generates a lot of thought about what it means to be brave and could lead to interesting discussion or writing assignments.

For grades 5-8.
Profile Image for Alicia.
5,881 reviews119 followers
July 2, 2017
Probably the slowest moving of all of Reynolds' books, this one has a rich setting and some great characters but needed to be tighter in terms of execution. The brothers going to live with their grandparents for a period of time while their parents work things out leads to discoveries and conversation with their grandparents that are rich, but again, slow moving. The discovery by the brothers that their grandfather is blind is a bit of curiousness that Genie gravitates toward and is fascinated by all of the ways that the grandfather keeps himself ordered and sane.

It's not an every-reader middle grade, but with an appreciation for both how the boys are growing up in the city and how their grandparents live in the country is a fun dichotomy.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,242 reviews

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